Coup feathers drawn by Jenna Kernan
Coup feathers are a very important component of my July 2015 release, Running Wolf. These decorative feathers carried great meaning to the wearer and all who saw him. These feathers were worn tied in the hair, affixed to shields, lances and horse’s manes. When enough feathers were collected, they might be sewn into a war bonnet, sometimes with a now iconic train of feathers. Most feathers were from an eagle, though hawk and gull feathers might also be worn.
The actual meaning was derived by how they were worn, how they were cut and how they were marked. The meaning of these variances varied from tribe to tribe, so the following list is a general accounting as recorded in the book, The Mystic Warriors of the Plains by Thomas E. Mails, 1972.
First Coup Feather – is worn straight up (Omaha)
Second Coup Feather – is worn horizontally to the side (Omaha)
Second Coup Feather – is worn upright and marked with one red bar (Sioux)
Third Coup Feather – is worn upright and marked with two red bars (Sioux)
Fourth Coup Feather – is worn upright and feather has a serrated edge (Sioux)
Fifth Coup Feather – is worn upright and the sides of the feather are removed leaving only the tip intact
Wounding a Man – Feather is dyed red
Wounding a Warrior who had killed an enemy – feather decorated with bands of quillwork
Split Feather – Indicates the warrior sustained many wounds
Black Feather torn down the middle – given to successful scouts
Diagonally Cut Feather – indicated a warrior either cut the enemies throat or took his scalp.
For more on Coup Feathers, visit by STORY BEHIND THE STORY page at www.jennakernan.com